The issue of unemployment in Nigeria has persisted for decades, with no obvious solution in sight. Several administrations in the past, promised a thorough alleviation of the problem during their election campaigns; however, none failed to deliver on their promises after they got elected.
Unemployment is a real humanitarian problem. It leads to high crime rates, low productivity, low standard of living, as well as many other social ills. Consider the most stable and developed countries in the world today; one distinguishing feature about them is that they have low unemployment rates. Whereas, Nigeria, the giant of Africa, has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
No one knows the origin of unemployment in Nigeria, but we can clearly ascertain the causes and possible solutions. This post clarifies the top five causes of unemployment in Nigeria.
1. Corruption and Tribalism
Chief amongst the causes of unemployment in Nigeria, is the menace called corruption. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of our nation. In fact, it is difficult to find any system or sector where corruption is not prevalent. Quite unfortunately, corruption has even crept into religious circles – which are supposed to be symbols of hope against the scourge.
Corruption is such a complex problem, and unemployment is only one of the myriad of problems it generates. It has caused unemployment in many ways. Firstly, it is via the embezzlement of public funds – which is the most popular feature of corruption. Usually, when funds are set aside for the development of infrastructure and industries that would ultimately create jobs for many and boost the nation’s economy, corrupt leaders typically siphon such funds and divert them for personal use. By so doing, gaps are created in the development of those industries, and no progress is made. As a result, individuals who would have gained employment – had such industries been developed as a result of receiving the funds – would remain in unemployment. Furthermore, the systems begin to decline in productivity due to paucity of resources, and even those already employed in the industries may be laid off or would be forced to resign voluntarily. This leads to more people becoming unemployed, and the cycle continues. Meanwhile, the corrupt leaders keep on getting wealthier, while the masses remain poorer.
Another way corruption causes unemployment is through tribalism and favouritism. This is when people in positions of power decide to give employment to individuals from a particular part of the country, without placing due emphasis on the requisite qualifications for the jobs. This phenomenon is called ‘connection’ in Nigeria. So, by so doing, these people in power create a line of employment for themselves and only those with whom they are pleased. They use provision of jobs to return favours to their other influential friends, while many other qualified and willing individuals languish in unemployment. This is the reason why there are many second degree holders and even third degree holders doing menial jobs overseas, just to make ends meet. They are qualified for whatever jobs that may be available, but they will remain unemployed because they do not have any ‘connection’ in the system.
These two problems combine to be the number one cause of unemployment in Nigeria. If corruption, tribalism/favouritism and the use of connections can be adequately dealt with in Nigeria, unemployment will be reduced drastically.
2. Erratic Power Supply System
Nigeria’s electricity supply system is arguably the worst in the entire world. Because of this, foreign companies dealing in alternative power sources like power generating sets, solar panels and inverters have prospered greatly in Nigeria. Many of them have begun to establish a base in Nigeria, because of the viability of the market – that is greatly helped by the erratic power supply system the country has.
How can a country with a population of nearly 200 million people, and an abundance of natural resources, still be unable to produce more than 10,000 Megawatts of electricity? It is appalling, and embarrassing.
Light is life. There is absolutely nothing that can be done without light. All industries need light to carry out their activities. Banking industries rely heavily on electricity and internet; and even the internet they require needs power to function. So ultimately, they rely solely on electricity! Ditto for the health sector: medical staff need power to carry out their activities; and so do all the other sectors in the economy. Electricity is indispensable, and without it, things will function below required capacity. That is where unemployment comes in.
While the power supply problem persists, industries have had to resort to alternative means of power to keep their businesses running. Thus, generators, solar energy and inverters are in wide use today. However, these alternative power sources do not come free of charge. As a matter of fact, they are very expensive to procure and maintain; and, for companies to get them, they must find a way to offset some of the cost. The truth is, alternative power sources increase the operating costs of any organization; and, with no significant increase in profits, the only thing the companies can do to stay afloat will be to lay off some staff to reduce salaries spent. In laying off employees, they do not employ more, and the work load of existing staff is increased.
Those who get laid off become unemployed – and there are many of them that are laid off every year, due to this power problem. In fact, in some cases, some organizations do not even survive long enough to be able to lay off staff. The high running costs make them fold up, and the entire staff are retrenched at the end of the day. Some others relocate their businesses to other neighbouring countries where power supply is steady.
Constant power supply is a must for any business to thrive; and without it, people will remain unemployed.
3. Poor Educational System
This is one of the top causes of unemployment in Nigeria. There are tons of certificated illiterates out there; and no serious-minded business owner will want to employ an individual who has a certificate of knowledge but has no application of that knowledge.
There is a wide knowledge gap between what students are taught in the schools and universities, and what is actually needed in the 21st century workplace. Laboratories are ill-equipped, IT skills tutelage is almost non-existent, most of the curricula in our universities are outdated, and even some lecturers do not see the need to enhance their knowledge base for the benefit of their students.
Books that our own students and lecturers celebrate as being very effective for use in studies are disdained by our counterparts in developed countries for more advanced texts. We happen to celebrate mediocrity, and it is a huge problem.
Because of these defects in the educational system, many graduates, though degree holders, are not able to fit in to the work environment. Not for lack of qualification, but for lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, in school they are taught theory, while the practical aspects of life are left as a mystery to them. As a result, they find themselves as misfits in the corporate world, unable to decipher their left from their right, after spending four to five years within the walls of a university classroom.
Many unemployed people claim to be certified in certain fields but have no idea of how their knowledge is applicable in real life situations. That is why many people are unemployed. This could be curbed by ensuring that schools do not just impart theoretical knowledge, but also provide means for their students to experience the practical dimensions of their fields.
Without mincing words, many Nigerian graduates are simply not employable. It takes more than just knowledge, or a certificate, to be gainfully employed in Nigeria. Many people are unemployed because they lack employability skills. Employability skills are a set of skills that makes an individual employable and valuable to an organization. it goes beyond the knowledge the individual has, or whatever certificates that the individual has amassed in their lifetime. Basic employability skills include: Problem-solving skills, communication and interpersonal skills, math and basic arithmetic skills, negotiation skills, presentation skills, IT skills (Proficiency in Microsoft Office Tools), Graphics Design and Digital Marketing skills, Project Management Skills, and etcetera.
Unfortunately, these skills are not taught in the university. They must be cultivated, or learned at some institute, or both. Sadly, many unemployed people do not see the need to expand their knowledge base to include any of the above-mentioned skills into their skillset. They think that their first-class degree, or the second class upper degree is forever enough to get them good jobs for life. What a miss!
This is one subtle reason why many people are unemployed. They lack the skills to be employable. These days, with ever-increasing operating costs, driven by the ever-fluctuating economic situation in the country, only few companies have the time and resources to commit to training individuals in acquiring these skills. You are more valuable to them if you come armed with them, in addition to your degree.
Individuals who empower themselves with such skills from professional certifying bodies have a better chance of getting jobs than those who just stay mediocre and do nothing about their situation.
5. Overdependence On Oil, And Negligence Of The Country’s Vast Agricultural Potential
This is by far the most notorious cause of unemployment, as well as every economic problem Nigeria has faced since the turn of the millennium. Nigeria is blessed with an abundance of mineral and natural resources. In previous years, the country’s main source of wealth was her agricultural sector. The agricultural sector was Nigeria’s mainstay, and, coincidentally, that period has been judged to be the period of Nigeria’s greatest wealth and economic stability. Farming was heavily encouraged and exploited. Nigeria began to export a lot of her natural resources in exchange for foreign revenue, and unemployment was low, or nearly non-existent.
However, when crude oil was discovered, then came the ‘Oil Boom’. As if hypnotized by some unseen cosmic force, the attention of the leaders shifted drastically from agriculture to oil. Thus, the country became heavily reliant on crude oil and its proceeds, much to the detriment of the agricultural sector.
Soon, the entire economy began gravitating towards the oil sector, while other professions were seen as peripheral. Worse still, professions in the agricultural sector – which used to be the country’s mainstay – were now seen as dirty jobs and only for poor people.
The problem of unemployment persists because many people have refused to engage themselves in other sectors like Agriculture which have the capacity to make them not only gainfully employed, but even wealthy. Nigeria is blessed with enough resources to keep the entire population gainfully employed, but many have insisted for white-collar jobs, as opposed to such ‘dirty’ professions like those found in the agricultural sector.
Well, as it stands, the unemployment problem will persist, if more and more people do not embrace the potentials available in the agricultural sector. No one knows when the country’s oil reserves will be extinguished, so it is imperative that people begin to look beyond the oil that we have so enjoyed, and seek alternative and legal sources of employment, job creation and wealth.
In conclusion, these are the top five causes of unemployment in Nigeria. Corruption has its place, and is arguably the most potent killer of the economy and the number one cause of unemployment in the country. Poor power supply also brings its own share of problems leading to increased unemployment; and so does the country’s poor educational system, lack of employability skills amongst the population, and an over-dependence on crude oil.
For all intents and purposes, please note that this list is by no means exhaustive. There are still many more causes of unemployment in Nigeria. However, they all either flow from these five listed here, or are directly/indirectly linked to them.